One of the Israeli soldiers was wearing a medical gown, another was wearing a white coat and a surgical mask. His team stormed the West Bank hospital brandishing rifles, took up positions next to waiting room chairs, then entered a patient’s room and killed a Hamas commander.
Fifteen minutes later they were gone.
Tuesday’s raid took place as the Israeli army fought Hamas on multiple fronts: with the dramatic operation in the West Bank, new clashes in northern Gaza and below the surface of the territory. The Israeli military confirmed for the first time on Tuesday that its engineers had begun pumping seawater into Hamas’ vast network of tunnels beneath Gaza.
Israel’s latest efforts in the nearly four-month war came amid a renewed push by multiple peace mediators, including the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt, to reach an agreement to stop the fighting. Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday that he was studying a proposal for a temporary ceasefire that had emerged from talks between officials from those nations in Paris.
But even as those talks continued behind closed doors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated again that Israel would continue fighting until it achieved “complete victory.” And the raid on the Ibn Sina Specialized Hospital in the northern West Bank city of Jenin suggested that Israel would continue to pursue Hamas leaders throughout the region.
Israeli forces have attempted to attack Hamas leaders and their allies both inside and outside Gaza territory. Earlier this month, Hamas blamed Israel for an explosion in Lebanon that killed its deputy political chief, and Iran accused Israel of an airstrike that killed senior Iranian military officials in Syria.
Israeli forces have stepped up their efforts against Palestinian militant activity in the West Bank, arresting more than 2,980 Palestinians since the war began in almost daily raids, more than 1,350 of them affiliated with Hamas, according to the Israeli military. Tuesday’s raid on the hospital lasted less than 15 minutes, according to its director, Niji Nazzal.
Surveillance video released Photographs from the PA Ministry of Health showed several armed men in plain clothes, including one dressed in a white medical gown and another in a blue gown, walking through the hospital hallways brandishing weapons.
They went to a room where Hamas commander Muhammad Jalamneh, 27, was visiting a friend and shot him and two other men dead, said the city’s top Palestinian health official, Wisam Sbeihat.
“They murdered these three people, including a patient,” Dr. Sbeihat said in a telephone interview.
In a statement, Hamas mourned Jalamneh’s death, describing him as a leader of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the faction’s armed wing. A local militia affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed that his companions (patient Basil Ghazawi and his brother Mohammad) had been members.
Dr. Nazzal said Basil Ghazawi had been receiving treatment in the hospital’s rehabilitation ward since late October, when he was paralyzed by shrapnel from an Israeli drone strike that hit his spine. That could not be independently confirmed, but the Israeli military said at the time that a drone had fired at Palestinian gunmen who had thrown explosive devices and shot at Israeli soldiers in Jenin.
The hospital raid raises questions under international law, experts say. Hospitals require special protection and respect under the laws of war, although that protection ceases if the facilities are used for military purposes, according to Eliav Lieblich, an international law expert at Tel Aviv University.
If Ghazawi was paralyzed and unable to defend himself, he should not have been targeted under international law, Professor Lieblich said. “Whether this was the case here is a question of fact,” he said.
The Israeli military said the three men killed in the attack had been involved in militant activities, including attacks against Israelis. It said Mr Jalamneh had been planning to “carry out a terrorist attack in the immediate future and used the hospital as a hideout”.
Israel’s incursions into the West Bank intensified as violence emerged from the war in Gaza, which began after Hamas-led attacks on October 7 in Israel killed, according to Israelis, about 1,200 people. The death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 26,000, according to Palestinian health officials.
Israeli ground troops advanced into northern Gaza in late October and have since turned their attention to the south of the territory, where fierce fighting has been fought for weeks. But in recent days it has also flared up again in the north.
On Sunday, deafening explosions rocked Gaza City, which is in the north and was the most populous city of the enclaves before the war began. Powerful explosions lit up the night sky.
“The situation was calm, but then there was violent shelling, shelling and clashes,” said Ghada Ikrayyem, 23, a solar panel technician, he said in an interview. “It was extremely dangerous.”
The Israeli military said in December that it was approaching “full operational control” of northern Gaza, but this week’s fighting made clear the extent to which the enclave remains a battlefield.
A major part of the challenge, Israeli officials say, is the network of tunnels that Hamas has built for years beneath Gaza.
The military’s statement Tuesday that it was flooding some of the tunnels was its first public acknowledgment of a controversial project that some military officials have said is ineffective and that the United Nations has warned could damage the city’s drinking water and sewage systems. Loop.
The army said it had begun pumping seawater to flush militants out of the labyrinthine underground network, which Hamas has used to launch attacks, store weapons and imprison Israeli hostages. It said it had “deployed new capabilities to neutralize underground terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip by channeling large volumes of water into the tunnels.”
Senior Israeli military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, estimated this month that the underground network is between 350 and 450 miles long, extraordinary figures for a territory that at its longest point is only 40 kilometers. Two of the officials said there are about 5,700 separate shafts leading to the tunnels.
Overall, the flood project has had limited success, officials said. Large volumes of water have been pumped in, but many of the tunnels are porous, causing seepage into the surrounding soil rather than a deluge through the passageways.